I love reading stories with strong characters. There's nothing better than a vivid hero or crusty villain who jumps off the page, grabs you by the scruff of the neck, and pulls you into their story.
What happens when we write about a character who does the opposite? Instead of jumping, they sink. Glug, glug, glug…
How do you fix it? How do you transform your bland character into someone readers can relate to, someone they want to follow?
For a few months, I had my own radio show. It wasn't anything fancy, but it taught me a lot about the interview process. It was fun getting to know a stranger over the course of an hour. I was always amazed at the level of transparency that guests offered.
Why can't we do the same thing with characters? It's our job as writers to birth characters, to really get inside their heads. Why don't we interview them, run through a question and answer session where they open up about who they are?
Where To Start?
The most important thing I learned about conducting a thought-provoking Q&A was to ask open-ended questions. Stay away from simple yes or no answers.
Here's an example of a question I've asked my most popular character, Cal Stokes: Cal, how do you feel about politicians?
The former Marine could go on and on describing his countless confrontations with corrupt politicians. It's in those comments that I dig out pieces of Cal's psyche, allowing me to better understand who he is and how he would react to situations within my novels.
I can hear him saying things like, “Let me tell you about the time when…” or “The bedrock of our country is being eroded by…”
Not only will I find his personality, I'll also find snippets to use for dialogue. Pretty cool.
Not sure where do start? Here are some open-ended questions you might want to ask your character.
How did that situation make you feel?
What did you do to remedy the situation?
How do you think your decision will affect others?
Where do you go from here?
Notice how I word the question so that it's virtually impossible (unless they're completely uncooperative) to give one-word answers. Often the simplest question evokes a momentous response.
What's the first question you would ask your favorite character?
Conduct an interview with a one of your characters for fifteen minutes. Don't have one of your own? Choose a favorite from a novel you love. Be creative. Really get to know them. Dig deep.
Post your practice in the comments section below and please provide feedback for your peers 🙂